In this quaint turn of the century community called Old Time Spring, where Victorian style shops line the streets, one business stands out - Pole Fitness for Jesus. Yes, Pole Fitness for Jesus. There's no preaching just teaching. Set to Christian music, church going women spin and slither around poles, but the instructor and student say it's not about sex. For them, this is about getting closer to God.At first glance I was pretty gobsmacked. To be honest pole dancing is not really the first thing I think of when I think of Christian women worshiping God. Dean is quite right when she asserts that the body is the temple and such I suppose it is safe to assume that God would naturally want us to take good care of ourselves. No matter what you feel about pole dancing, it simply cannot be denied that it is a highly physical activity to take part in.
Crystal Dean (instructor): God gives us these bodies and they're supposed to be our temples, and we're supposed to take care of them and that's what we're doing.
Tiffany Booth was raised in church, now the pole is her temple.
Tiffany Booth (student): I do feel a spiritual connection whenever you have the music on and it's singing about lifting you up and being closer to God. You do feel that
Getting classes off the ground hasn't been easy for instructor Crystal Dean.
Crystal Dean: Some guy came up with his bible and we were in class here and he thumped on the door and he was like waving his bible at people who want to sit there and judge it and say that it's sacrilegious. That doesn't really make you a good Christian when you judge other people.
There are those who just can't get passed the stigma
Eric Purgason: You know in God's eyes, it wouldn't be attractive.
19 year old Eric Purgason's family runs Lord and Nature a christian gift shop neighbouring the pole dancers.
Dee Bovati (Lord and Nature): We have to watch those boundaries that we cross over and not allow the enemy to take it in another direction.
We found women that said the classes cleared their moral compass.
Penny Primeaux: If someone wants to swing on a pole on Sundays then that's their preference.
And those who straddled the subject.
Allison Hogan: It's are you doing it in front of men? Are you doing it as a you know sex in exchange for money. You know, what are you doing it for.
But for these women, there is room for both the bible and a little body roll in this town that touts its old fashioned ways.
Crystal Dean: They're going to church and then you know they're worshiping God and it was just a way for them to continue that. We're taking care of ourselves. It doesn't mean we're bad people, we're good.
I will say that I think that what these women are doing misses the mark slightly. Pole dancing no matter what music you do it to (heaven save us all from Christian Rock BTW) is a sexual activity. When a woman pole dances she is moving her body in a sexual way and the total denial of the role that sexuality has to play in this activity is at the very least disappointing. It almost feels as though if they acknowledge that what they are doing is also sexual affirming that the thin veneer of acceptability that they have managed to achieve will be irrevocably tarnished.
The majority have been given a sexual driven for a reason. It is a part of us that most will continually explore throughout our lifetimes. Simply because one feels sexual or wants to be sexy, does not mean that these feelings are not of God. Considering that women have been framed as temptresses who are unclean and drive men to sin, I think that it would be far more transgressive to assert the role of female sexuality as a gift from the creator.
I am often amused at the hostility towards sex in various manifestations of Christianity. In most cases, were it not for the act of sex we would not even be here. This idea that it is something that has to be controlled, limited and proscribed only under specific circumstances, in nothing but a power play to control behaviour. How much more free would be all be if we could simply let go an enjoy participating in sex with consenting adults without the constant guilt and worry? If we were meant to see this as a sin, or an activity that only existed for the purposes of reproduction, we would not desire sex throughout our lives. We are not salmon and it is time we stop pretending that we need to spawn only at a specific intervals.
I truly do applaud these women for having the courage to do what they want with their bodies in a world that teaches us that agency is not a desirable trait but the clear lack of connection between sexuality and pole dancing makes me wonder if there is more conformity in their behaviour than first meets the eye.